The Afghan Psyche
Sanger Khan’s life could not have been better, although he had not much, for the first time life appeared to be moving forward and not just forward but also in a promising direction. Now he was not living in Peshawar but had shifted to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, now, after a long and exhausting struggle he had secured a degree in engineering. A couple of his childhood friends had acquired the same degree 12 years ago but Sanger’s educational journey was different and difficult for he was born to a father who would not let him succeed; successful sons are educated sons, intellectually, emotionally and financially independent, capable of changing traditions so his education was hampered and he was subjected to the bondage of brutal and rotten traditions, doses and exposure to this brutality was strictly administered by his father and uncles.
For the most part of his childhood and youth he had been carrying the load of petty family feuds, the time wasting, life wasting, stinking and stagnant strife of a semi tribal-culture typical of Pak-Afghan border region. But now things had changed, he had a job with bright future prospects; he was working with a multi-national organization, and he now commanded the respect and admiration of his backward cousins. By now he had forgotten the atrocities of his late father and his uncles, and he had begun to think of himself as one of the cultured men that surrounded him. He dressed like them, talked like them, lived like them and even thought like them; what else was needed for adjusting? Nothing, he was one of them and that was the strongest conviction.
One night Sanger Khan was out for a long walk while his vehicle was parked outside, just at front of his rented house, when he came back he found that there was a huge dent near one of the doors. After examining the dent and the broken pieces of a bumper he concluded that his neighbor who lived opposite to him was responsible for it; when the neighbor was reversing his car from his porch, he accidentally hit Sanger’s car, made a dent in it but not without damaging his own back bumper. Sanger’s siblings wanted to knock at the neighbor’s door, complain and if deemed necessary extrude compensation but Sanger opposed the idea, saying it was not Peshawar besides it was also too late and that in the morning the neighbor himself would come with an apology, after all his neighbor was a civil and polite gentleman from Punjab, living in one of the poshest societies of Islamabad. All Sanger wanted was a word of apology and nothing more, accidents could happen to anyone, anywhere, besides the damage was minor, the dent in his car should not cost more than a hundred dollars.
Later that night, accidentally and from his bathroom window, Sanger saw his neighbor pick the pieces of his car bumper from the road and left the scene quickly; his curiosity was aroused but as he had a long day and was too tired, he went to bed. The next day, as usual, it was long hours in the office and then a couple of business commitments so he arrived home well after dark, through the door bars he saw that his neighbor had parked his car in reverse so that the damage to his back bumper would not show through the iron gate. After entering his own house Sanger asked his brother if the neighbor had apologized, the answer was ‘no’. Paying a hundred and fifty dollars for the repair was not a problem but this, not apologizing was. Was he of nothing in his neighbor’s eyes? Did his neighbor consider him a moron? Did his neighbor think of himself superior to those who were living in rented houses?
Now these agonizing questions, this sense of inferiority would not let him sleep. Unlike the civilized and cultured he did not care for the law or evidence; he knew who did the damage to his car and insulted him by posing innocent. Every single thing in Sanger’s life and in the lives of his loved ones was pleasant and promising and he knew it. He knew he was in Punjab, away from the petty criticism and satires of inferiority or superiority of his uncles but still he was not at ease; only revenge and laughing at the face of his neighbor would make him satisfied, with these disturbing thoughts in his mind he woke up in the middle of the night, turned the bedroom light on, went to the washroom for a splash of water on his face and as he raised his head to the mirror above the wash basin he was shocked to see his father in the mirror.
Hassan Azra Khan
MD Azra English Academy
PWD, Islamabad, Pakistan